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The picturesque river which gave our commonwealth its 
name has always been an important feature in the geography and 
history of this northwest country. 

The geologist reads in the deep erosion of this valley, and 
in its continuance to lake Traverse, which outflows to lake Winni- 
peg and Hudson bay, the story of a mighty river, the outlet of a 
vast ancient lake covering the Red river region in the closing part 
of the Glacial period. What use, if any, the primitive men of 
that time made of this majestic stream, we know not. 

The Dakota tribes, whom the white explorers found dwelling 
upon our river's margin two or three centuries ago, called it "the 
sky-tinted", from the tincture given its water by the rich clayey 
soil of its valley. Their mortal foes, the O jib ways, whose home 
was among the somber pines of the north, were impressed with 
the greenness of its luxuriant foliage, and hence knew it as Ash- 
kiibogi-Sibi, "the River of the Green Leaf." The French trad- 
ers named it the St. Pierre (or St. Peter), probably in honor of 
one of their leaders who had been among the first to explore it . 

Many and varied have been the scenes enacted upon its banks, 
scenes of thrilling adventure and glorious valor, as well as of 
happy merriment and tender love . It was for centuries the arena 
of many a sanguinary conflict, and the blood of lowas, Dakotas, 
Ojibways, and white men, often mingled freely with its flood. 

*Read at the monthly meeting of the Executive Council, April 14, 1902. 



For generations unknown the only craft its bosom bore was 
the canoe of the Indian. Then came the French traders, with 
their retinue of voyaguers, who made our river an avenue of a 
great commerce in Indian goods and costly furs. For over a 
hundred years fleets of canoes and Mackinaw boats, laden with 
Indian merchandise, plied constantly along the river's sinuous 
length. The sturdy voyaguers, however, left to history but a 
scant record of their adventurous life. A brave and hardy race, 
were they, inured to every peril and hardship, yet ever content 
and happy ; and long did the wooded bluffs of the Minnesota 
echo with their songs of old France. 

The first white men known to have navigated the Minnesota 
were Le Sueur and his party of miners, who entered its mouth 
in a felucca and two row boats on September 2Oth, 1700, and 
reached the mouth of the Blue Earth on the 3oth of the same 
month. The next spring he carried with him down the river a 
boat-load of blue or green shale which he had dug from the bluffs 
of the Blue Earth, in mistake for copper ore . Much more profit- 
able, doubtless, he found the boat-load of beaver and other Indian 
furs, which he took with him at the same time. This is the first 
recorded instance of freight transportation on the Minnesota 
river . 

In the winter of 1819-20, a deputation of Lord Selkirk's 
Scotch colony, who had settled near the site of Winnipeg, traveled 
through Minnesota to Prairie du Chien, a journey of about a 
thousand miles, to purchase seed wheat. On April I5th, 1820, 
they started back in three Mackinaw boats loaded with 200 bush- 
els of wheat, 100 bushels of oats, and 30 bushels of peas. Dur- 
ing the month of May they ascended the Minnesota from its 
mouth to its source, and, dragging their loaded boats over the 
portage on rollers, descended the Red river to their homes, which 
they reached early in June. 

The Mackinaw or keel boats used on the river in those days 
were open vessels of from twenty to fifty feet in length by four to 
ten feet in width, and capable of carrying from two to eight tons 
burden. They were propelled by either oars or poles as the 
exigencies of the river might require. The crew usually com- 
prised from five to nine men. One acted as steersman, and, in 


poling, the others, ranging themselves in order upon a plank laid 
lengthwise of the boat on each side, would push the boat ahead; 
and as each, in rotation, reached the stern, he would pick up his 
pole and start again at the prow. Their progress in ascending 
the river would be from five to fifteen miles per day, depending 
upon the stage of water and the number of rapids they had to 
climb . 

Dr. Thomas S. Williamson, the noted missionary to the 
Indians, in describing his first journey up the valley of the Minne- 
sota, in June, 1835, gives an interesting account of how he shipped 
his wife and children and his fellow helpers, Mr. and Mrs. A. 
G. Huggins, with their goods, on one of these boats, which was 
nine days in making the trip from Fort Snelling to Traverse des 
Sioux . 

In the correspondence of Mrs. S. R. Riggs, the wife of 
another famous missionary to the Sioux, is found a vivid picture 
of a Mackinaw boat, belonging to the old Indian trader, Philander 
Prescott, in which she ascended the Minnesota in September, 
1837. It was about forty feet long by eight feet wide and capable 
of carrying about five tons. It was manned by a crew of five 
persons, one to steer, and two on each side to furnish the motive 
power. Oars were used as far as to the Little rapids, about three 
miles above Carver, and thence to Traverse des Sioux poles were 
employed. The journey consumed five days. 

Illustrative of the size and capacity of some of the canoes 
used by the traders, we find George A. McLeod in April, 1853, 
bringing down from Lac qui Parle to Traverse des Sioux forty 
bushels of potatoes, besides a crew of five men, in a single canoe 
twenty-five feet long by forty- four inches wide, hollowed out of a 
huge cottonwood tree. 


The first steamboat to enter the Minnesota river was the 
Virginia on May loth, 1823. She was not a large vessel, being 
only 118 feet long by 22 feet wide, and she only ascended as far 
as Mendota and Fort Snelling, which during the period between 
the years 1820 and 1848 were about the only points of importance 
in the territory now embraced within our state. Hence all the 
boats navigating the upper Mississippi in those days had to enter 
the Minnesota to reach these terminal points. 


Except for these landings at its mouth, and save that in 1842 
a small steamer with a party of excursionists on board ascended 
it as far as the old Indian village near Shakopee, no real attempt 
was made to navigate the Minnesota with steamboats until 1850. 
Prior to this time it was not seriously thought that the river was 
navigable to any great distance for any larger craft than a keel 
boat, and the demonstration to the contrary, then witnessed, has 
made that year notable in the history of the state. 


In June, 1850, the Anthony Wayne, a Mississippi river boat 
in charge of Captain Daniel Able, arrived at St. Paul with a 
party of St. Louis people. They were a jolly crowd, and to 
enliven their trip had brought with them a small band of music 
from Quincy, Illinois. Just then there was quite a freshet in 
the Minnesota, and it was suggested to Captain Able that to en- 
tertain his guests he take his boat on an excursion up this river, 
then little known, to see the country. The people of St. Paul 
were soon enlisted in the project, and a purse of $225 was raised 
to defray the expense. 

On the day set, Friday, the 28th of June, early in the morn- 
ing the Anthony Wayne, with her decks crowded with one hun- 
dred and fourteen of St. Paul's prominent citizens and the 
seventy St. Louis people, started on her memorable journey up 
the Minnesota. All nature seemed propitious. The day clear 
and balmy, the luxuriant vegetation freshened by recent showers, 
and the river full to the brim, glistening like silver between its 
winding avenues of trees gaily decked and festooned in varied 
green, all combined to make a glorious paradise of this most 
charming of valleys. Louis Pelon and Thomas J. Odell, because 
of their acquaintance with the river, acted as pilots. 

At Fort Snelling our excursionists found Captain Monroe 
with only fifty men in charge and expecting every moment to be 
summoned to Sauk Rapids to quell a disturbance by the Winne- 
bagoes, which happened the next day. Here the military band, 
under the lead of Mr. Jackson, joined the excursion. 

The first point of note above the fort, and at a distance of 
about three miles by land from it, was Black Dog's village, com- 
prising a row of huts and tepees ranged on the brow of the 
north bluff. The intervening ground between the bluff and the 


river was covered with patches of corn and beans, which the 
squaws were busily hoeing. Near by on the same side of the 
river, but close to its banks, they passed Man Cloud's village . 

Five or six miles beyond (by land measure), Good Road's 
village stood on the south bank. About ten miles farther, and 
on the same side of the river, lay Six's village, where Samuel 
Pond had his mission station . Nearly opposite the present village 
of Chaska was a village of Wahpahton Sioux, where Louis Robert 
had a trading post, for which the boat unloaded some goods . At 
the foot of the rapids near Carver our steamer overtook a keel 
boat bearing the name "Rocky Mountains," whose crew were en- 
gaged in the arduous task of forcing their boat up the rushing 
waters by dragging it with a long rope passed around a tree 
above and by pushing it with their long poles . The Wayne con- 
cluded not to attempt the rapids, and turned her prow homeward . 

The fuel having given out, the boat crew made a raid on an 
Indian cemetery close at hand, and replenished their stock from 
the dry poles and pickets there found . This vandalism was prob- 
ably excused on the ground of necessity, no other dry wood being 
available . Be that as it may, it is certain that the steam generated 
by this funereal fuel soon carried the Wayne and her happy 
burden home. The voyage had proven eminently successful, and 
the people were wild in their praise of the river and the beautiful 
country it drained. 

Emulous of the Wayne's achievement, the Nominee, a rival 
boat in command of Captain Orren Smith, got up another ex- 
cursion party, and on the I2th of July sailed up the river, and 
passing the formidable rapids planted her shingle three miles 
above, and then returned home in triumph. 

The Wayne, not to be thus outdone by a rival, on the i8th of 
the same month, with a third excursion on board, ascended 
again the now famous river. The Fort Snelling band partici- 
pated also in this journey. Passing the rapids and the shingle 
of the Nominee on the first day, the Wayne spent her second night 
at Traverse des Sioux. Here the missionaries, M'essrs. Hop- 
kins and Huggins and their families, extended generous hospi- 
tality; and the next morning they joined the party in their farther 
progress up the river . After partaking of a picnic dinner at the 
bend in the river two or three miles below the present city of 
Mankato, our excursionists turned the prow of the Wayne home- 


ward, whence arriving they swelled the praise of the beautiful 
valley of the Minnesota more than ever . 

Incited by the success of these boats, the Yankee, a steamer 
belonging to the Harris line, determined to outdo them all. Ac- 
cordingly a big excursion, comprising most of the prominent 
officials and business men of St. Paul, was organized, and on 
Monday, the 22nd day of July, this ambitious little boat steamed 
into the mouth of the Minnesota. She was officered by M. K. 
Harris, captain, J. S. Armstrong, pilot, G. W. Scott, first en- 
gineer, and G. L. Sargent, second engineer. The Fort Snelling 
band was again in requisition. Late on the afternoon of the 
second day the boat passed Traverse des Sioux, where the mis- 
sionaries had just harvested a small field of wheat, probably the 
first ever raised in the valley. It certainly was fitting that this 
first year of steamboating in the valley should also be the first 
year to grow that commodity which was to play so important a 
part in the river's traffic. 

The second night was spent at the upper end of Kascta 
prairie. It was a charming moonlight night, and a number of 
the Yankee's party held a dance on the grassy floor of this level 
plateau. The band furnished the music (some of the dancers 
said that several mosquito bands were out too) . 

Early Wednesday the Yankee started up stream again, soon 
passing the sign the Anthony Wayne had fastened to a neighbor- 
ing tree the w r eek before. On the mound at the mouth of the 
Blue Earth our travelers found a small Indian trading post, be- 
longing to H. H. Sibley, in charge of a Frenchman. Discover- 
ing here in the sand what seemed to be pieces of cannel coal, they 
were told by the Frenchman that two or three miles up the Blue 
Earth there was a solid bed of coal four feet thick in a bluff. 
This must have been the same wonderful bluff in which Le Sueur 
found his copper mine, but as no such bluff was ever afterward 
known in that locality, and as the Frenchman also mysteriously 
disappeared, there may be some ground for the report that he 
stole it, or it may have been all "bluff," a French "bluff." 

By the third evening the boat reached a point a little above 
the present village of Judson in Blue Earth county. Even thus 
late in the season (July 24th), the stage of water in the river was 
excellent, and no difficulty so far had been incurred in its navi- 
gation. It was voted that evening to proceed again on the mor- 


row, but the intense heat (which had been 104 degrees in the 
shade that day) and the swarms of mosquitoes prevented both 
crew and passengers from sleeping. For that reason, and be- 
cause provisions were nearly exhausted, the vote was reconsid- 
ered in the morning, and the fourth night found them again at 
Traverse des Sioux. 

On the next day they spent an hour at Six's village. The 
old chief, with about a hundred of his braves, came down to the 
landing to meet them, and there he made a speech claiming big 
damages because the excursionists had tramped down his corn. 
True, the corn had been drowned out and washed away by the 
high water long before the whites landed; but then, the Great 
Spirit was angry because they had taken those big fire canoes up 
the river, and that was why the freshet came, so they ought to 
pay for the corn. How Six (or "Half a Dozen," as James 
Goodhue of the "Pioneer" called him) succeeded with his damage 
suit is not stated, but our travelers reached St. Paul all safe by 
night . 

Never did they forget the beautiful country they had seen, 
and the delightful journey they had taken on its most picturesque 
highway. Nearly all the prominent people of the Territory, 
and scores of visitors from the East, had participated in one or 
more of these excursions. The navigability of the Minnesota by 
steamboat was now a demonstrated fact, and the desirability for 
settlement of the fertile country it drained was by these eye 
witnesses everywhere enthusiastically heralded. This focusing 
of the public eye on the valley contributed in no small degree to 
the making of the great treaty with the Sioux in the following 
summer, whereby this magnificent country was thrown open to 
civilization . 


On the 29th of June, 1851, the steamer Excelsior (called 
by the Indians the Buck boat, from the antlered head of a' deer 
which decorated its prow) transported the treaty commissioners, 
Hon. Luke Lea and Governor Ramsey, with their attendants 
and supplies, to Traverse des Sioux, where at sunrise on the 
morning of the 3oth they arrived . On the 2oth of July the Ben- 
jamin Franklin, No. I, carried to the same place a party of St. 
Paul people to witness the famous treaty then in progress. The 


third and only other boat to ascend the Minnesota this year was 
the Uncle Toby, which on October 7th conveyed to Traverse des 
Sioux the first load of Indian goods under the new treaty. 

During the fall and winter following this treaty there was 
a great rush of settlers into the Minnesota valley, and before the 
spring of 1852 a series of town sites lined the banks of the river 
from St. Paul to the mouth of the Blue Earth, a distance by 
water of a hundred .ind fifty miles. These embryo towns were 
at once in dire need of communication with the civilized world, 
that they might be accessible to the swarms of settlers ever 
pressing westward, and that those locating in them might have 
their wants supplied. 


Among the proprietors of the townsite of Mankato were 
Henry Jackson and Col. D. A. Robertson, both influential busi- 
ness men of St . Paul . Through their efforts the steamer Tiger, 
under Captain Maxwell, was induced to make three trips to the 
remote Blue Earth town in the spring of 1852. She left St. 
Paul on her first journey April 2ist, and returned on the 25th 
of the same month. Her second and third trips were made on 
April 28th and May i8th. Each time she carried a full load of 
passengers and freight for Mankato and intermediate points. 
The Minnesota now becoming too low for navigation, the Tiger 
went elsewhere. 

In the meantime, by an act of Congress passed June 8th, 
1852, this river, which heretofore the whites had called the St. 
Peter's, had its ancient Sioux name, Minnesota, restored to it . The 
mid-summer rains restored to it, also, its navigable condition, and 
Colonel Robertson succeeded in chartering the Black Hawk to 
make three trips to Mankato during July . The Black Hawk was 
a stern- wheel boat, just built the winter before at Rock Island, 
and was well adapted for the Minnesota trade, being 130 feet 
long with a 21 -foot beam, and drawing only 17 inches of water. 
She had thirty state rooms, with berths for sixty passengers, and 
was capable of carrying 130 tons. Her captain was W. P. 
Hall, and her clerk W. Z. Dalzell. She left St. Paul on her 
first voyage up the Minnesota on the third of July, having on 
board, besides freight, forty passengers, fifteen of whom were 
booked to Mankato. The boat arrived there on the morning of 


the 5th, and returned the next day to St. Paul. On the I2th and 
2ist of July the Black Hawk departed on her second and third 
trips to Mankato, and during the same season she made two trips 
to Babcock's Landing, just opposite the present city of St. Peter, 
and one to Traverse des Sioux. 

The Jennie Lind also entered the Minnesota trade this year, 
and during July made one trip to Babcock's Landing, one to 
Traverse des Sioux, and one to Holmes' Landing (now Shako- 
pee) . The steamer Enterprise also went as far as Little rapids, 
making in all thirteen departures from the St. Paul wharf dur- 
ing this very first year of traffic with white settlers. 

The first boat to enter the Minnesota in 1853 was tne Greek 
Slave, a new boat built especially for this river by Captain Louis 
Robert. She left St. Paul on April 4th with 150 passengers, 
besides a full load of freight, and on the 7th arrived at Traverse 
des Sioux and Mankato. Another boat to enter the trade this 
year was the Clarion, a small stern-wheel vessel of seventy-two 
and one-half tons burden, owned by Captain Humbertson. On 
her first voyage she carried an excursion to Traverse des Sioux, 
where she arrived on April 22nd . 

Two events of 1853, of much importance in the develop- 
ment of the Minnesota river trade, were the establishing upon its 
head waters of the Sioux Agencies and the erection in their 
vicinity of Fort Ridgely. The necessity thus created, of trans- 
porting to such a distance up the river the large quantity of sup- 
plies required annua'ly by both soldier and Indian, gave an im- 
petus for years to the steamboat traffic of the Minnesota. 

The West Newton, Captain D. S. Harris, secured the con- 
tract to convey the troops with their baggage from Fort Snelling 
to the new post. She was a small packet, 150 feet long and of 
300 tons burden, and had been bought the summer before by the 
Harris brothers to compete with the Nominee in the Mississippi 
river trade. She left Fort Snelling on Wednesday, the 2/th 
day of April, 1853, having on board two companies of the Sixth 
U. S. Regiment, in command of Captains Dana and Monroe. 
To help carry the baggage, she had two barges in tow. The 
Tiger had also departed from St. Paul on the 25th, and the 
Clarion on the 26th, each with a couple of barges in tow, heavily 
loaded with supplies for the new fort and the agencies. The 
West Newton, being the swiftest boat, passed the Clarion at 


Henderson, and the Tiger near the Big Cottonwood, and thence 
to the site of the new fort at the mouth of Rock creek, was the 
first steamer to disturb the waters of our sky-tinted river. 

The Minnesota this year remained navigable all summer, and 
a number of boats ascended it to Fort Ridgely and the Lower 
Sioux Agency, while others went to Mankato and other points. 
The passenger travel, as well as the freight trade, was excellent. 
On two successive trips in July, the little Clarion carried 150 
passengers at a time, and other boats were equally crowded. In 
September two St. Paul gentlemen, C. D. Fillmore and William 
Constans, bought each a small boat for the Minnesota trade. 
Mr. Fillmore's boat, the Humboldt, started on her first trip on 
the I3th of that month; and on the 24th followed Mr. Constans' 
boat, the lola. 

In all there were forty-nine boat arrivals in 1853 from the 
Minnesota river at the St. Paul wharf. The names of the 
boats, and the number of trips made by each, so far as known, 
were as follows: Gieek Slave, 4 trips; Clarion, 16; Tiger, 13; 
Black Hawk, 8 ; West Newton, I ; Shenandoah, 3 ; Humboldt, 2 ; 
lola, 2 . The Greek Slave opened the season on the 4th of April, 
and the lola closed it on the 2nd of November. 

The winter of 1853-4 was mild and open and the river broke 
up early, but without the usual freshet/ for there had been but 
little snow. The Greek Slave was the first boat on the Minne- 
sota again in 1854, and her first trip w r as an excursion to Shako- 
pee on the 2 ist of March. The Humboldt followed her in a day 
or two, and during March and April made about a dozen trips, 
but owing to low water did not get above the rapids more than 
once or twice. The Greek Slave only attempted one trip up the 
Minnesota, this being in April. 

The success of the prior season had awakened in the boat- 
men great expectations for this year, and much preparation for 
it was made during the winter, but all was doomed to disappoint- 
ment. Captain Samuel Humbertson, who the year before had 
been the most active in the trade, and who had started above the 
mouth of the Blue Earth the townsite of South Bend, which he 
hoped would become the chief city of the valley, during the 
winter sold his little Clarion, and built for himself at Belle Ver- 
non, Pa., on the Monongahela river, a fine new boat 170 feet 


long, with thirty-eight well furnished state rooms. He christened 
her the Minnesota Belle, and, loading her full with immigrants, 
intended mostly for his new town, on May 3rd started up the 
Minnesota. To the captain's great chagrin, his new boat failed 
to climb the Little rapids, near Carver, and he abandoned the 
river, townsite and all, in disgust . 

A rainfall a few days later, however, swelled the river suffi- 
ciently for the Black Hawk to reach Traverse des Sioux on the 
2Oth day of May. For some time, and until after July 2oth, the 
lola and the Montello ran with fair regularity between the Little 
rapids and Traverse, supplementing the Black Hawk, Humboldt, 
and other boats, plying below the rapids. 

Large keel boats, denominated barges, propelled after the 
ancient method by a crew of men with poles, became common 
on the river this year. Andrew G. Myrick placed two of these 
barges on the river in charge of the Russell boys. These ves- 
sels were from 50 to 60 feet long, 10 to 12 feet wide, and with 
sides four to five feet high, along the top of which was fastened 
a plank walk, for the use of the pole men. A small low cabin 
for the cook was built in the stern, and during foul weather a big 
tarpaulin was spread over the goods. A full crew consisted of 
a captain, who also acted as steersman, ten to a dozen pole men, 
and a cook. With a fair stage of water the usual speed up 
stream was twelve to fourteen miles a day, but if sandbars or 
rapids interfered a mile or two would be a hard day's journey. 
Down stream, however, they would travel much faster. Most 
of the supplies for Fort Ridgely and the Sioux Agencies, as well 
as for all up river towns, had to be transported this year in such 
barges . 

The total steamboat arrivals from the Minnesota at St. Paul 
in 1854 did not exceed thirty, and few of them came from beyond 
the Little rapids. This, however, does not include trips by the 
Montello and the lola between the rapids and points above. 

The snowfall in the winter of 1854-5 was again rather 
meager, and consequently the river continued low during the 
spring of 1855, though not as low as the prior season. The 
Globe, a new boat belonging to Louis Robert, with Nelson Robert 
as captain, was the first steamer, leaving St. Paul on the 8th of 
April. The Black Hawk, the J. B. Gordon, No. 2, the H. S. 


Allen, and the Montello, with the barges Russell and Master, 
promptly joined in the trade. A fair business was done in April, 
but during the midsummer months navigation was mostly sus- 
pended, because of low water. The fall rains caused quite a 
freshet, and there was a brisk trade again for a month or two, 
continuing as late as the middle of November. The Time and 
Tide, Berlin, Equator, and Reveille, had now joined with the 
other boats in the Minnesota river trade. 

Louis Robert, having the contract this year to deliver the 
Sioux annuities, took them up to the Agency late in October in 
the Globe, of which Edwin Bell was then captain. Within two 
miles of the landing the boat struck on a rock, and the goods had 
to be unloaded on the river bank. While Captains Robert and 
Bell were gone to carry the Indian money, amounting to $90,000 
in gold, to Fort Ridgely, the Indians, who were gathered in force 
to divide the provisions, carelessly set fire to the dry grass, which 
was quickly communicated to the pile of goods, and most of them, 
including fifty kegs of powder, were destroyed. 

The names of boats engaged in the Minnesota river trade 
during this year 1855, an d the number of trips taken by each 
from St. Paul, were as follows: Globe, 14 trips; Black Hawk, 
13; Berlin, 13; Time and Tide, 8; H. S. Allen, 22; ]. B. Gor- 
don, No . 2, 28 ; Equator, 6 ; Reveille, 3 ; Montello, i ; and Shen- 
andoah, I . The total of the trips definitely recorded is thus 109. 
The Humboldt also ran on this river in the years 1854 to 1856. 
The first to enter had been the Globe on April 8th, and she was 
the last to leave on the i6th of November. 

An event of 1855 which tended to stimulate the commerce of 
the Minnesota for some years, was the removal of over 2,000 
Winnebagoes from the upper Mississippi to a reservation near 
Mankato . 

A good fall of snow during the winter of 1855-6 caused an 
abundant supply of water in the river next spring. The naviga- 
tion of the Minnesota for the season of 1856 was opened on 
April loth by the Reveille, a stern- wheel packet, in command of 
Captain R. M. Spencer. Four days later, the Globe, with Nel- 
son Robert as captain, departed from St . Paul for the same river, 
and she was followed the next day by the H. S. Allen. 


The Reveille was considered a fast traveler, and as an in- 
stance of her speed it is recorded that on her second trip of this 
year she left St. Paul at 2 p. m. on Thursday, April I7th, with 
132 passengers and a full load of freight, and arrived at M'an- 
kato by Saturday ; and that leaving the latter place at 5 a . m . the 
next day, she reached St. Paul by 8 p. m. that evening, after 
having made twenty- four landings on the way. 

On the 5th of May, the Reveille landed at Mankato a com- 
pany of settlers numbering two or three hundred, known as the 
Mapleton Colony; and the following Saturday (May loth) the 
H. T. Yeatman landed at South, Bend a company of Welsh 
settlers from Ohio, numbering 121 souls. The Yeatman was 
a large stern-wheel boat, about the largest that ascended the Min- 
nesota, and this was her first trip. She continued in the trade 
only a few weeks, while the water was high. Her captain was 
Samuel G. Cabbell. Regular trips were made this year by sev- 
eral boats to Fort Ridgely and the Lower Sioux Agency, and 
some ascended to the Upper Agency, at the mouth of the Yellow 
Medicine river. 

The time table of Louis Robert's fine packet, the Time and 
Tide, issued for this season, shows the distance from St. Paul 
to Yellow Medicine to be 446 miles. To an old settler, who 
actually traveled on a Minnesota river steamboat in those early 
days, the idea of a time table may seem rather amusing; for if 
there was anything more uncertain as to its coming and going, or 
more void of any idea of regularity, than a steamboat, the old 
time traveler never heard of it. Now stopping in some forest 
glen for wood, now tangled in the overhanging boughs of a tree 
with one or both smoke-stacks demolished, now fast for hours 
on some sandbar, and now tied up to a tree to repair the damage 
done by some snag, while the passengers sat on the bank telling 
stories, or went hunting, or feasted on the luscious wild straw- 
berries or juicy plums which grew abundantly in the valley, were 
common occurrences in steamboat travel. M'any a pioneer re- 
members the Time ?.nd Tide, and how its jolly captain, Louis 
Robert, would sing out with sonorous voice, when the boat was 
about to start, "All aboard ! Time and Tide waits for no man," 
and then add, with a sly twinkle in his eye, "and only a few min- 


utes for a woman.'' Though we of today may think such 
method of travel tedious, yet it had many pleasant features, and 
to the people of that time, unaccustomed to the "flyers" and "fast 
mails" of today, it seemed quite satisfactory. 

The names of the boats which left the St. Paul wharf in 
1856 for the Minnesota river, and the number of trips taken by 
each, were as follows: Equator, 46 trips; Reveille, 40; Globe, 
34; Wave, 29; Minnesota, 20; Clarion, 12; Time and Tide, 12; 
Berlin, 10; and H. T. Yeatman, 4. The total trips so recorded 
are 207, being an increase of nearly a hundred over the preceding 
year. The steamboats H. S. Allen and Humboldt were also 
on the Mississippi river this year. 

The season of 1857 opened auspiciously with a good stage 
of water in the Minnesota. The Equator, a well built packet of 
fair size in charge of Captain Sencerbox, was the first boat. 
She left St. Paul for Mankato on the morning of April I2th with 
a full load of passengers and freight. She was followed the 
next day by the Clarion, which had been bought the year before 
by Captain O. D. Keep and brought back to the Minnesota, 
where she had done such good service in 1853 under Captain 
Humbertson. Captain Keep and his clerk, John C. Hoffman, 
resided in the vicinity of Shakopee, and they kept the Clarion in 
the Minnesota trade until she sank near the St. Paul levee two 
or three years later. 

Two fine new boats, destined to do much service on the 
Minnesota, entered this year. They were the Frank Steele, a 
splendid side-wheel packet owned by Commodore Davidson, and 
the Jeannette Roberts, a large stern-wheel packet owned by Cap- 
tain Louis Robert. The Antelope, a small craft which Captain 
Houghton ran regularly for years between St. Paul and Chaska, 
began her career this season. Other important boats which en- 
gaged in the Minnesota trade this year for the first time were 
the Medora, J. Bissell, Isaac Shelby, Fire Canoe, and Red Wing, 
all good sized packets, especially the last two. 

During the spring of this year steamboating on the Minne- 
sota was unusually brisk. Eighteen boats arrived at St. Peter 
during a single week in May, and by June 1st thirty- four boats 
had passed that town for points above. It was no unusual occur- 


rence to see two or three boats unloading at once at the Mankato 
wharf . 

The names of the boats which left the St. Paul wharf this 
year 1857 for the Minnesota, and the number of trips made by 
each, were as follows : Antelope, 105 trips ; Jeannette Roberts. 
40; Isaac Shelby, 36; Medora, 29; Frank Steele, 20; Equator, 
14; Time and Tide, 13; Clarion, 12; Minnesota, 8; Ocean Wave, 
6; J. Bisscll, 5; Red Wing, 3; and Fire Canoe, i. The total 
trips were 292, an increase of 85 from the year before. The 
last boat was the Antelope which arrived at St. Paul on the 
1 4th of November. 

The winter of 1857-8 proved very mild, and the river broke 
up unusually early. The first boat to leave St. Paul for the 
Minnesota was the Jeannette Roberts, Captain Thimens, on 
March 2Oth, but the Medora, Captain Charles T. Hinde, follow- 
ing in a short time, passed her before reaching Shakopee. In 
doing so, the boats rubbed too close together, and one of the Me- 
dora's wheels was injured, so that she had to tie up an hour or 
two for repairs. She managed again to overtake and pass the 
Jeannette while the latter was unloading at Traverse des Sioux, 
and reached Mankato as the first boat on the morning of March 
22nd, followed there an hour or two later by the Jeannette. 

Notwithstanding that there had been hardly any snow the 
previous winter, the heavy spring and summer rains kept the 
river in a good navigable condition, and boats of the size of the 
Frank Steele and Isaac Shelby were able to ascend to Mankato 
late into September. The Freighter was the only new boat to 
engage in the Minnesota trade . 

This spring J. R. Cleveland and C. F. Butterfield built a 
barge at Mankato 75 feet long by 12 feet wide and 4 feet high, 
which they christined "The Minneopa." It was employed by 
Mr. Cleveland during the period of low water for many years 
in the Mankato traffic. It was operated in the old way, by a 
poling crew, and it usually took two weeks to make the trip to 
St. Paul and back to Mankato. 

There were 179 steamboat arrivals at Mankato this year, 
counting those arriving from points above as well as from below; 
the former, though, did not exceed 25 or 30. 



The list of the boats engaged in the Minnesota trade this 
year, 1858, and the number of trips made by each, as shown by 
the St. Paul wharf master's book, are as follows: Antelope, 201 
trips; Frank Steele, 54; Jeannette Roberts, 35; Time and Tide, 
30; Freighter, 18; Isaac Shelby, 16; Ocean Wave, 12; Clarion, 
1 1 ; Medora, 8 ; Fire Canoe, 6 ; and Minnesota, 3 . The total re- 
corded trips were thus 394, an increase of 102 over the year be- 
fore. The steamboats Belfast and Equator and the barge Min- 
neopa also plied on the river this year, but the number of their 
trips cannot be given . 

In 1859, the river broke up early after a mild winter, and 
the Freighter arrived at Mankato, the first boat, on March 27th, 
having left St. Paul two days before. An abundant rainfall 
kept the river in good navigable condition its entire length 
through most of the season. The Favorite, an excellent side- 
wheel packet of good size, built expressly for the Minnesota 
trade by Commodore Davidson, entered as a new boat this spring . 

As the water was quite high in the upper Minnesota, Cap- 
tain John B . Davis of the Freighter conceived the idea of cross- 
ing his boat over from the Minnesota to Big Stone lake and 
thence to the Red river, and accordingly about the last of June 
he attempted the feat. Whether the crew found too much whis- 
key at New Ulm or the boat found too little water on the divide, 
authorities differ, but all agree that the captain and his crew 
came home in a canoe about the last of July, passing Mankato 
on the 25th of the month, having left his steamboat in dry dock 
near the Dakota line. The Freighter was a small, flat-bottomed, 
square-bowed boat. The Indians pillaged her of everything but 
the hull, and that, half buried in the sand about ten miles below 
Big Stone lake, remained visible for twenty or thirty years. The 
captain always claimed that if he had started a month earlier 
his attempt would have been successful. 

The steamboat arrivals at Mankato this year were in total 
131, as follows: 

From St. Paul From the West 

Favorite 44 4 

Jeannette Roberts 31 8 

Frank Steele 19 " 

Freighter 2 I 

Ocean Wave 2 2 



Time and Tide 2 i 

Isaac Shelby I i 

Belfast i i : 

Total 102 29 

The total arrivals from the Minnesota at the St. Paul wharf 
were 300, which included some boats, like the Antelope, which 
did not come to Mankato at all. Navigation continued this year 
until quite late, the last boat to pass down over the Little rapids 
being the Jeannette Roberts on the 6th of November. 

In 1860, the Minnesota again broke up quite early and the 
first boat, the Time and Tide, left St. Paul March iQth, reach- 
ing St. Peter on March 2ist, and Mankato the next morning. 
The river was quite low this spring and none of the larger boats 
were able to ascend it. A number of small boats of light draft 
were, however, put into the trade instead, such as the Little 
Dorrit, the Eolian, which Captain Davidson had succeeded in 
raising the fall before from the bottom of lake Pepin where she 
had lain since the spring of 1858, and the Albany, a small new 
boat of very light draft which Captain Davidson had built the 
winter before expressly for the Minnesota in low water. The 
Jeannette Roberts managed to get up as far as Mankato a few 
times, and once in July, when there was a small freshet, even to 
the Sioux Agency. After a little rainfall in June, the Time and 
Tide, the Favorite, and the Frank Steele, came up as far as St. 
Peter for a trip or two. Most of the time, however, the Albany, 
which the old settlers used to say only required a light dew to 
run in, was the only boat which could float at all above the Little 
rapids. For a time she supplemented the Favorite at the rapids, 
but finally the water 'got so low that navigation suspended entire- 
ly, except .that the little Antelope kept her trips to Shakopee and 
Chaska. Cleveland's barges (for now he had two of them) had 
the monopoly of the Minnesota river traffic for the most of the 
season. They could carry ten or twelve tons each, and were 
kept busy until the river closed in November. There were only 
250 steamboat arrivals at St. Paul from the Minnesota this year, 
and the Antelope made 198 of these. 

The spring of 1861 opened with a bjg flood in the Minne- 
sota. The first boat, the Albany, left St. Paul on March 3Oth, 
and arrived at Mankato the 1st of April. She was officered by 


J. V. Webber, captain (who was now the owner, having pur- 
chased her from the Davidson company in March), Warren 
Goulden, first clerk, and Moses Gates, engineer. It was claimed 
by the older Indians and traders that the upper Minnesota was 
higher this spring than it had been since 1821. In April the 
Jeannette Roberts ascended farther up the river by two miles 
than any steamboat hud ever done before, and might easily have 
accomplished what the Freighter attempted and failed to do in 
1859, to wit, pass over into the Red river, if she had tried; for 
the two rivers were united by their high flood between lakes 
Big Stone and Traverse. 

This season the Minnesota Packet Company, of which Cap- 
tain Orren Smith was president, put two first class boats, the 
City Belle and Fanny Harris, into the river to compete with the 
Davidson and Robert lines. The Fanny Harris, on her first 
trip, which occurred during the second week in April, went to 
Fort Ridgely, and brought down Major (afterwards General) 
Thomas W. Sherman and his battery to quell the southern re- 
bellion, w r hich had just started. With her also went the Fav- 
orite and brought down Major (afterwards General) John C. 
Pemberton, with his command of eighty soldiers, the most of 
whom, being southern men, were much in sympathy with their 
seceding brethren. 

The City Belle made her first appearance at St. Peter and 
Mankato on May i8rh, under command of Captain A. T. Cham- 
blin. She was a fine side- wheel packet, and about the largest 
boat that ever entered the Minnesota trade. The river, though 
high in the spring, did not continue so very long, and by the 
last of June became so low that navigation above the rapids had 
to be suspended. 

The arrivals at St. Peter and Mankato from below num- 
bered 66, as follows: Albany, 22 trips; Favorite, 18; City Belle, 
10; Jeannette Roberts, 9; Eolian, 4; Frank Steele, 2; and Fanny 
Harris, I . 

Boats below the rapids, however, continued to run the most 
of the season, and the total arrivals at St. Paul from the Min- 
nesota were 318. 

The barges of Captain Cleveland were kept busy in the 
traffic between Mankato and points below. The first shipment 
of wheat in bulk from the Minnesota was made in June of this 


year, 1861, on one of these barges. It comprised 4,000 bushels, 
and was taken direct to La Crosse. Heretofore it had been 
shipped in sacks. Wheat had now become the principal export 
of the valley. During the earlier years nearly all the freight 
traffic on the river had been imported, but by this time the ex- 
port of grains had grown to be an important item . With so many 
Indians in the valley the shipment of furs, which at first had 
been about the only export of the country, still continued valu- 
able; but furs, because of their small bulk, cut but little figure 
in the boat'ing business. This year the value of the furs from 
the Sioux Agencies was $48,416; and from the Winnebago coun- 
try, $11, 600. 

The spring of 1862 witnessed another great flood in the 
Minnesota, and navigation was opened by the* Albany . She 
only got as far as Sr. Peter on her first voyage, arriving there 
on April 3rd, and reaching Mankato on her second trip on the 
1 3th. The Pomeroy, an excellent new boat, was put into the 
trade this spring by the Davidson company. Two small boats, 
the Clara Hines and G. H. Wilson, entered the Minnesota also 
for the first time this spring. Messrs. Stagg and Handy of St. 
Paul put a small boa f called "New Ulm Belle," which they built 
with the machinery of the Clarion, also into the Minnesota traf- 
fic, in charge of Captain Scott. The Favorite, officered by Ed- 
win Bell, captain, and N. B. Hatcher, clerk, and the Jeannette 
Roberts, officered by Nelson Robert, captain, and Jack Reaney, 
clerk, were active in the trade this year as usual. 

The register of boat arrivals at Mankato for the year shows 
a total of 70, as follows : 

From below 'From above 

Albany 19 I 

Jeannette Roberts 13 

Favorite 9 I 

Clara Hines . . 8 I 

Pomeroy 6 I 

Ariel 2 

G. H. Wilson I 

Total 58 12 

The length of the period of navigation, from April I3th to 
July 20th, was three months and seven days. Wheat shipped 


from Mankato on these boats amounted to 62,000 bushels, and 
8,000 bushels were shipped from South Bend. 

Below the rapids, navigation continued until late in Novem- 
ber, and the total anivals at the St. Paul wharf from the Min- 
nesota were 413, the largest record in the river's history. The 
fall navigation may have been slightly stimulated by the require- 
ments of the Sioux war. Immediately on news of the outbreak, 
the Favorite, under Captain Bell, carried the first soldiers of 
General Sibley's command, with such arms and ammunition as 
could be hastily gathered at Fort Snelling and St. Paul, to the 
defense of the frontier, taking them to Shakopee and one com- 
pany as far as the Little rapids . 

The Jeanette Roberts was the first boat in 1863. She ar- 
rived in Mankato on April 3rd, and was there greeted by the en- 
tire population of the town, including about 1,000 soldiers, who 
made the echoes ring with their cheers . It was customary in those 
steamboat days for young and old, male and female, in every 
town along the river, at the deep baying sound of the first whistle 
to gather at the levee to welcome the first boat. To the lonely 
pioneer, the vigils of a long winter in the wilderness \vere trying, 
and the arrival of the first boat was an important event in his 
life, when he heard from his childhood home and the outside 
world, and when his exhausted larder would be replenished and 
a few relishes \vould relieve the monotonous round of corn cake. 

Much of the traffic this year consisted in transporting troops 
and supplies in connection with the Sioux war. The Favorite, 
the winter before, had been lengthened by cutting her in two 
and inserting a piece thirty feet long into the middle, just ahead 
of the machinery and wheels. This materially increased the 
boat's capacity, but rather spoiled her appearance. She was 
taken entirely into the Government service this season, and one 
of her first duties was the transportation of the 270 condemned 
Sioux from their Mankato prison to their new quarters at Dav- 
enport, Iowa. They left Mankato on April 22nd, and the forty- 
eight acquitted Indians with fifteen or twenty squaws, who had 
been acting as cooks, went with them . 

During the winter, under the religious instruction of the 
missionaries, Williamson, Riggs, and Pond, a wonderful trans- 
formation had occurred in these wild savages of a few months 


before, a transformation that proved sincere and lasting, and 
as they sailed down the river, they sang religious hymns in their 
native tongue. Affecting, indeed, was the scene, as in passing 
Fort Snelling and St. Paul, where their squaws and papooses 
were imprisoned, they sang their favorite hymn, "Have Mercy 
upon us, O Jehovah," to the tune of Old Hundred. 

In May the Winnebagoes were to be removed from Blue 
Earth county to their new agency in Nebraska, and on the even- 
ing of the 8th of this month the Pomeroy and Eolian arrived at 
Mankato to take part in the transportation of this tribe. Eleven 
hundred of them had already pitched their tepees in what was 
called Camp Porter, on the river bank just back of where now 
stands the Hubbard and Palmer mill in Mankato. A few days 
before, a party of them had killed two Sioux who were visiting 
their agency, and, stretching their scalps on a couple of hoops 
decked with colored ribbons and fastened to poles, they paraded 
the streets with them . On this night of May 8th, from sundown 
to sunrise, the people of Mankato were regaled with the tom-tom 
music and savage yells of the scalp dance. On Saturday, May 
9th, they began to embark, 405 going on the Pomeroy, and 355 
on the Eolian. Both boats started from the Mankato wharf at 
two o'clock in the afternoon. Conspicuous on the Pomeroy's 
hurricane deck were planted the poles bearing the two Sioux 
scalps, around which sat, first, the war party o^f about twenty 
young bucks, half naked, their bodies daubed with mud and 
paint, and with wreaths of green weeds and grass on their heads, 
and next to them squatted a number of other warriors, all chant- 
ing in time with two or three tom-toms a monotonous "He-ah, 
he-ah/' as they journeyed down the river, a scene quite in con- 
trast with that presented by their Sioux brethren on their de- 
parture two weeks before. The next day, the Favorite took 338 
of the remaining Winnebagoes, and on the I4th the Pomeroy 
came after the last of them. In all there were 1,856 removed. 

Besides the traffic incident to military operations, there were 
shipped from Mankato alone over 60,000 bushels of wheat this 
spring. The Prairie du Chien Railway Company put a new 
boat, named the Flora, into the Minnesota river trade this season . 
She was a stern-wheeler of about the size of the Jeannette Rob- 


The summer of 1863 was exceptionally dry, and though 
boats were able in May to ascend to Camp Pope, twenty-five miles 
above Fort Ridgely, by the middle of June the river had fallen 
so that all steamboat traffic above the rapids was suspended . 

The imperative need of freight transportation in the valley 
became yearly more insistent, and the inability of steamboats to 
meet the demand, especially in periods of drouth, caused a great 
increase this summer in the use of barges, amounting to a new 
departure in the river traffic. Hereafter, instead of carrying 
freight in large steamers, it was found much more expedient to 
carry it in strings of barges drawn by small tug-boats. Among 
others, Messrs. Temple and Beaupre of St. Paul put four barges 
into the Minnesota traffic to ship freight from Mankato and 
points between it and the Little rapids to Prairie du Chien . The 
total steamboat arrivals from the Minnesota this year at the St. 
Paul wharf were 177. 

During the winter of 1863-4 the Davidson Company built 
a fine new packet, about 150 feet long, for the Minnesota river 
trade, which, in honor of the thriving town of the mouth of the 
Blue Earth, they christened "The Mankato." The citizens of 
that municipality, in appreciation of the compliment, purchased 
a fine silk flag to present to the boat on her first arrival ; but un- 
fortunately that opportunity did not come until a year later, for 
during 1864 about the only boat which reached Mankato was the 
Jeannette Roberts on April i6th. 

The barge traffic flourished, however, in spite of the low 
water, and steamboats were used on the lower Minnesota. The 
total arrivals of steamboats at St. Paul from the Minnesota this 
year were 166; and of barges, 82. 

In January, 1865, the state legislature appropriated $3,000 
to improve the Minnesota river; and Major E. P. Evans, of 
Blue Earth county, and John Webber, of Ottawa, Le Sueur coun- 
ty, were appointed commissioners to oversee the work. Accord- 
ingly in February Major Evans with a force of fifty men cleared 
the river of snags, and later they made other improvements, 
which aided navigation considerably. 

By the spring of 1865 the severe drouth of the last two years 
was broken. The first boat to leave St. Paul for the Minnesota 


was the Ariel on the second of April. She arrived at St. Peter 
on the 3rd, and at Mankato on the 4th . 

Among the new boats to enter the Minnesota this year were 
the Mollie Mohler, Julia, G. H. Gray, Otter, Mankato, Lansing, 
General Sheridan, and Hudson. The Mollie Mohler had been 
built the winter before for the Minnesota river trade; she was 
125 feet long, and had accommodations for fifty-six cabin pas- 
sengers. Her captain was George Houghton. The Julia was 
a stern-wheel boat, built the same winter by the Northwestern 
Packet Company expressly for the Minnesota trade. Her length 
was 141 feet, her beam 28 feet, and her total capacity 300 tons, 
although drawing only seventeen inches of water. Jack Reaney, 
for years the popular clerk of the Jeannette Roberts, was her 
captain. The G. H. Gray was built in the spring of 1863 on the 
St. Croix. She was 139 feet long, 19 feet wide, and drew four- 
teen inches of water. 

The trade this year was quite brisk as long as the season 
lasted. The boats were able to reach St. Peter and Mankato 
for about two months in the spring, and by reshipping at the 
Little rapids were able to get to the rapids just below St. Peter 
for two or three weeks later. 

During the season . the number of steamboat arrivals at St. 
Paul from Carver and the Little rapids was 150; and from points 
above the rapids as far as from Mankato, 40. A few trips were 
also made to the upper Minnesota. The total arrivals from this 
river at St. Paul in 1865 was 195. This of course does not em- 
brace trips made by the Albany and other boats between the 
rapids and points above. Twenty barges, each loaded with 200 
barrels of lime from Shakopee, and 97 barges loaded with wood, 
averaging 40 cords each, from various points in the valley, also 
arrived at the St. Paul wharf. No records of the wheat barges 
were kept, as they generally carried their cargoes to La Crosse 
or Prairie du Chien, but they were quite numerous. 

In 1866 the first boat to arrive at St. Peter and Mankato 
was the Chippewa Falls, on the I5th of April. The Minnesota, 
a splendid packet built the winter before at Cincinnati, entered 
for the first time this season. The principal boats engaged this 
year in the traffic were the Julia, Mankato, Mollie Mohler, Stella 


Whipple, Albany, Otter, Pioneer, Tiber, and Pearl. By the 
i6th of June there had been 38 arrivals at Mankato, which num- 
ber during the season was swelled to 50, having a total capacity 
of 3,750 tons. 

The barge trade by this year had grown to immense propor- 
tions, over 175 barges being used. The Tiber towed out of the 
Minnesota and down the Mississippi at one load a string of 
barges carrying 30,000 bushels of wheat. Some of the barges 
were of great size. Among the largest was one owned by Cap- 
tain Davidson, called "Little Mac," which was 142 feet long by 
25 feet in width, of 114 tons burden. 

The wheat shipments from the principal points in the Min- 
nesota valley during 1866 amounted to 688,641 bushels, as fol- 
lows : From Belle Plaine, 45,000 bushels; Faxon, 12,600; Hend- 
erson, 29,400; Le Sueur, 22,000; Ottawa, 5,000; St. Peter, 
68,850; Mankato, 190,000; South Bend, 25,000; Shakopee, 106,- 
791; Carver, 80,000; and Chaska, 104,000. 

The navigation this year, however, was quite poor, owing 
to low water through most of the season. A United States sur- 
vey of the river was made during the summer with a view to im- 
proving it. 

The arrivals at the St. Paul wharf from the Minnesota in 
1866 were only about 100. The decrease was probably due to 
two causes, first the construction to Belle Plaine of the St. Paul 
and Sioux City railroad, which cut off most of the boat traffic on 
the lower and most navigable portion of the river; and, second, 
that most of the freight was now being carried in barges, w r hich, 
having no occasion to stop in St. Paul, passed down the Missis- 
sippi without being registered in the St. Paul wharfmaster's 

The year 1867 was exceptionally good for boating, as a fine 
stage of water continued during the entire season. The first 
boat to land at Mankato was the Chippewa Falls on the i8th of 
April . 

During the summer and until the first of September, the 
Mollie Mohler, Captain H. W. Holmes, made daily trips be- 
tween Mankato and Belle Plaine, a distance of 175 miles, making 
close connections at the latter place with the St. Paul trains. 
She would leave Mankato every morning at 8 o'clock and arrive 
at Belle Plaine about 4 o'clock in the afternoon, and then leave 


Belle Plaine on her return journey at 6 o'clock p. m. and 
reach Mankato by sunrise . As indicative of her speed, she would 
at times make the trip from Mankato to St. Peter, a distance of 
30 miles, in one hour and twenty minutes ; and as evidence of the 
abundant water in the rivers this season, the Mollie on the Qth of 
June ascended the Blue Earth and Le Sueur rivers to the Red 
Jacket mills, situated about where now the Milwaukee railway 
crosses the latter stream, and carried hence 425 barrels of flour. 
Up to September, when the Mollie Mohler retired, there had been 
1 66 steamboat arrivals at Mankato, of which the Mollie had 
made 87. 

After this the Otter ran quite regularly until the 3Oth of 
October, making two or three trips a week, and the Ellen Hardy 
and Mankato made a few trips, while the Ariel made regular 
trips between Mankato and St. Peter and the railroad terminus, 
until the river closed about the loth of November. 

Congress had made an appropriation of $7,000 this year to- 
wards the improvement of the river, and in July bids were re- 
ceived by Gen . G . K . Warren, government engineer, on two 
proposed contracts for such improvement, one covering the first 
section, reaching from the Redwood to Mankato, and the other 
for the second section, extending from Mankato to the Little 
rapids. Not much came of this river improvement project, and 
it was soon abandoned, as the advent of railroads into the valley 
rendered it unnecessary. 

The principal river casualty of 1867 was the sinking of the 
Julia two miles below Mankato on the morning of the loth of 
May. She struck a snag as she was coming up the river, under 
a full head of steam, well loaded with passengers and freight, and 
sank in twelve feet of water. None of the passengers were in- 
jured, and nearly all the freight was recovered, but the boat itself 
was a wreck. Her machinery and upper deck were eventually 
removed, but the hull lies in the sands of the Minnesota to this 

In 1868, the Chippewa Falls was again the first boat at St. 
Peter and Mankato, arriving at the latter place on the 3ist of 
March. Navigation was not nearly as good this year as the 
year before, yet by the first of May there had been over 50 steam- 
boat arrivals at Mankato. No new boat, as far as known, en- 
tered the river this year ; and quite a few of the boats prominent 


in the trade the prior season had disappeared, among them the 
well known Mollie Mohler and Jeannette Roberts. Most of the 
trade was confined to points above the terminus of the railroad, 
which by October had reached Mankato, the first passenger coach 
on the St. Paul and Sioux City road arriving there on the 6th of 
that month . 

The first boat to reach Mankato in 1869 was the Ellen Hardy 
on the 1 8th of April. The Otter, St. Anthony Falls, Pioneer, 
Tiger, and our old friend, the Jeannette Roberts, were engaged in 
the Minnesota trade this season, besides the Ellen Hardy. The 
business men of New Ulm this spring, seeing no immediate pros- 
pect of a railroad for their town, bought the little steamer Otter 
for $3,000, and put her into the trade between New Ulm and 
Mankato, where she made regular trips twice to three times a 
week. Her average load of freight used to be 3,000 bushels of 
wheat. A number of trips were made to Redwood. The naviga- 
tion continued until rather late. On November 3rd, there were 
three boats unloading at once at the Mankato levee: the Pioneer, 
Otter, and Tiger. 

The first boat to reach Mankato in 1870 was the Otter from 
New Ulm, on April 5th ; and the Mankato on April I3th was the 
first boat to arrive from St. Paul. During the early spring 
there was quite a brisk trade ; and the smaller boats, like the 
Tiger and Otter, continued to run even through July and August . 
The arrivals at Mankato in April and May alone numbered 43 ; 
and the total arrivals for the season were about 80. The Mankato 
brought down from New Ulm on the 2d of May 17,000 bushels 
of wheat on one load, and two days later the Dexter brought 
down in two barges 21,000 bushels. The Otter and Tiger plied 
mostly between Mankato and New Ulm; while the Mankato, 
Dexter, and St . Anthony Falls, made frequent trips to St . Paul . 
As an instance of the speed of the Tiger, it is stated that on 
May I4th she made the run from Redwood Falls to Mankato in 
thirteen and a half hours. In the spring of this year the Jean- 
nette Roberts, one of the best known and longest in service of all 
the Minnesota steamboats, was sold to go to the Wisconsin river 
trade . 

lu 1871 the Otter was the first boat again at Mankato, ar- 
riving on April 4th from New Ulm. On April I5th came the 
Pioneer, the first boat from St. Paul. On April i8th, as the 


Mankato was approaching 1 St. Peter on her first trip of the 
season, she struck a snag a few rods below the present wagon 
bridge in that city and sank. Her passengers and crew received 
no harm. After lying in the river channel for over a year, she 
was finally raised and taken below, never to enter the Minnesota 
again. The Otter, Pioneer, and Hudson, were busily employed 
during April and May (which was as long as navigation this year 
lasted) in carrying wheat and other freight from New Ulm and 
Redwood to South Bend, where it was transferred to the rail- 
road. It is said of the Otter, that on May nth of this year she 
made the run from West Newton to South Bend, a distance of no 
miles, in less than seven hours running time, being the quickest 
time the journey was ever made by any boat. She brought with 
her two barges loaded with 2,000 bushels of wheat. 

With this season ends practically the navigation of the Min- 
nesota river, for the Northwestern railway reached New Ulm 
this year. 


The Osceola, Captain Haycock, a small boat, ascended the 
river as far as Redwood once in the spring of 1872, twice in the 
spring of 1873, and once in the spring of 1874. The water, 
however, was quite low each season and navigation difficult. In 
1876, on the high water of the spring, the Ida Fulton and Wyman 
X. came up this river; and ten years later, in 1886, one trip was 
made by the Alvira. Again for ten years no steamboat was 
seen on the Minnesota, until, taking advantage of a freshet in 
April, 1897, Captain E. W. Durant of Still water ran his boat, 
the Henrietta, a stern-wheel vessel 170 feet long, with forty state 
rooms, on an excursion to Henderson, St. Peter, and Mankato. 

With the advent of civilization, the surface of the country 
has been exposed by cultivation so that much of the moisture 
which in the olden days drained into the creeks and -rivers now 
evaporates, causing all of our streams to shrink to half their 
former size. Thus it has come to pass that he who sees the Min- 
nesota of today wonders that it was ever a navigable stream. 
But the old settler who remembers the river in its prime, when 
it carried on its swelling bosom the commerce of its great valley, 
can see in the dim vistas of the past a different scene ; and many 


a tale of thrilling interest can he tell of those bygone days, when 
our sky-tinted river was navigable . 


The following are lists of the steamboats on the Minnesota 
river for each year, with the names of their captains when known, 
as compiled from the records of wharfmasters and from news- 
paper files. The totals of steamboat arrivals at the St. Paul 
wharf from the Minnesota river are also noted for each year . 

1850. Anthony Wayne, Capt. Dan Able; Nominee, Capt. Orren 
Smith ; Yankee, Capt M. K. Harris. Total arrivals, 4. 

1851. Benjamin Franklin, No. I, Capt. M. W. Lodwick; Excelsior, 
Capt. James Ward ; Uncle Toby. Total arrivals, 3. 

1852. Black Hawk, Capt. W. P. Hall ; Enterprise ; Jenny Lind ; Tiger, 
Capt. O. H. Maxwell. Total arrivals, 13. 

1853. Black Hawk; Clarion, Capt. Samuel Humbertson; Greek Slave, 
Capt. Louis Robert; Humboldt; lola; Shenandoah; Tiger, Capt. Barton; 
West Newton, Capt. D. S. Harris. Total arrivals, 49. 

1854. Black Hawk, Capt. W. P. Hall; Globe, Capt. Haycock; Greek 
Slave, Capt. Louis Robert; Humboldt; lola, Capt. William H. Sargent; 
Minnesota Belle, Capt. Samuel Humbertson; Montello; War Eagle. Total 
arrivals, 30. 

1855. Berlin; Black Hawk, Capt. O. H. Maxwell; Equator, Capt. 
Maxwell ; Globe, Captains Louis Robert and Edwin Bell ; H. S. Allen, 
Capt G. W. Farman; Humboldt; J. B. Gordon, No. 2, Capt Maxwell; 
Montello; Reveille; Shenandoah; Time and Tide. Total arrivals, 109. 

1856. Berlin ; Clarion, Capt. O. D. Keep ; Equator, Capt. O. H. 
Maxwell ; Globe, Capt Nelson Robert ; H. S. Allen, Capt George D. Mar- 
tin; H. T. Yeatman, Capt Samuel G. Cabbell ; Humboldt; Minnesota; 
Reveille, Capt R. M. Spencer; Time and Tide, Capt. Louis Robert; 
Wave. Total arrivals, 207. 

1857. Antelope, Capt George Houghton ; Clarion, Capt John C. 
Hoffman; Equator, Captains Marvin and Sencerbox; Fire Canoe; Frank 
Steele, Capt Davidson; Isaac Shelby, Capt. Bishop; J. Bissell, Capt Mar- 
vin; Jeannette Roberts, Captains Thimens and Simmons; Medora, Cap- 
tains Charles T. Hinde and McLagan; Minnesota, Capt Sencerbox: 
Ocean Wave ; Red Wing ; Time and Tide, Capt Louis Robert. Total ar- 
rivals, 292. 

1858. Antelope, Capt George Houghton; Belfast; Clarion; Equator; 
Fire Canoe; Frank Steele, Capt. William F. Davidson; Freighter, Capt 
John B. Davis; Isaac Shelby, Capt Bishop; Jeannette Roberts, Capt. 
Thimens; Medora, Capt Charles T. Hinde; Minneopa (barge), Capt 
J. R. Cleveland; Minnesota; Ocean Wave; Time and Tide, Capt. Nel- 
son Robert Total arrivals, 394. 


1859. Antelope, Capt. George Houghton; Belfast; Eolian; Favorite, 
Captains Edwin Bell and Peyton S. Davidson; Frank Steele, Capt. P. S. 
Davidson; Freighter, and Isaac Shelby, Capt. John B. Davis; Jeannette 
Roberts, Capt. L. Robert; Minneopa (barge), Capt. J. R. Cleveland; 
Ocean Wave; Time and Tide, Capt. N. Robert. Total arrivals, 300. 

1860. Albany, Capt. John V. Webber ; Antelope, Capt. George Hough- 
ton; Eolian, Capt. Thimens; Favorite, Capt. P. S. Davidson; Frank Steele, 
Capt. N. B. Hatcher; Jeannette Roberts, Captains N. Robert and F. 
Aymond ; Little Dorrit; Minneopa (barge), Capt. Cleveland; Time and 
Tide, Capt. N. Robert; Victor (barge). Total arrivals, 250. 

1861. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton; 
Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; City Belle, Capt. A. T. Chamblm; Clara 
Hines ; Eolian; Fanny Harris; Favorite, Capt. P. S. Davidson; Frank 
Steele; Jeannette Roberts; Victor (barge). Total arrivals, 318. 

1862. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton; 
Ariel, Capt James Houghton; Clara Hines; Favorite, Capt. Edwin 
Bell; G. H. Wilson; Jeannette Roberts, Capt. N. Robert; New Ulm Belle, 
Capt. Scott; Pomeroy. Total arrivals, 413. 

1863. Albany, Capt. Webber; Antelope, Capt. George Houghton; 
Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; Eolian; Favorite; Flora; G. H. Gray; 
Jeannette Roberts, Capt. N. Roberts ; Pomeroy ; Stella Whipple. Total 
arrivals, 177. 

1864. Albany, Capt. Jones; Ariel, Capt. James Houghton; Express; 
Firesides, Capt. Joseph Hopkins; Henderson (barge), Capt. Frank 
Aymond; Jeannette Roberts; Mollie Mohler, Capt. George Houghton; 
Monitor; St. Cloud, Gapt. James Houghton; Stella Whipple, Capt. J. V. 
Webber; Turtle. Total arrivals, 166. 

1865. Addie Johnson ; Albany, Capt. A. R. Russell ; Annie Johnson ; 
Ariel, Capt. H. W. Holmes; Chippewa Falls; Clara Hines, Capt. Spear 
Spencer; Enterprise, Capt. Merrill; G. H. Gray, Capt. Isaac Gray; G. H. 
Weeks; G. H. Wilson; General Sheridan; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney; 
Hudson; Lansing; Mankato, Capt. J. V. Webber; Mollie Mohler, Capt. 
George Houghton; Otter, Capt. Bissell ; Stella Whipple, Capt. J. Web- 
ber; Tiger, Capt. A. R. Young. Total arrivals, 195. 

1866. Addie Johnson; Albany, Capt. Harry Holmes; Alice; Ariel; 
Chippewa Falls, Capt. Alex. Griggs ; Damsel; Delaware; Enterprise; 
Flora; G. B. Knapp; G. H. Gray, Capt. Isaac Gray; G. H. W'eeks; 
G. H. Wilson; General Sheridan; Hudson, Capt. Sencerbox; Jennie Bald- 
win, Capt. George W. Duncan; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney; Lady Pike; 
Lansing; Mankato; Minnesota; Mollie Mohler, Capt. Harry W. Holmes; 
Otter, Capt. Bissell ; Pearl ; Pioneer ; Planet (barge) ; Stella Whipple, 
Capt. J. P. Merrill; Tiber, Capt. Andy Miller. Total arrivals, about 100. 

1867. Ariel; Chippewa Falls; Clipper; Ellen Hardy; Flora; G. B. 
Knapp; Hudson; Jeannette Roberts; Julia, Capt. John H. Reaney; Man- 
kato; Mollie Mohler, Cavt. H. W. Holmes; Otter, St. Anthony Falls, 
Capt. Aaron Russell; Tiber. Total arrivals of steamboats, 100; of barges, 


1868. Ariel, Capt. James Houghton ; Ben Campbell : Buckeye ; Chip- 
pewa Falls; Clipper; Cutter, Gapt J. V. Webber; Ellen Hardy, Capt. 
Russell; Flora; G. H. Wilson; Hudson, Capt. George W. Duncan; Jean- 
nette Roberts, Capt. Robert; Mankato; Otter; Pioneer; Wyman X. 
Total arrivals of steamboats, 80 ; of barges, 100. 

1869. Chippewa Falls, Capt. James Houghton; Ellen Hardy, Capt. 
Hardy; Jeannette Roberts, Capt. John Webber; Mankato, Capt. James 
Houghton; Otter; Pioneer, Capt McLagan ; St. Anthony Falls; Tiger; 
Wyman X., Capt. Wyman X. Folsom. Total trips below Mankato, about 
50; above Mankato, about 80. 

1870. Dexter ; G. B. Knapp ; Jeannette Roberts ; Mankato, Capt. 
James Houghton; Otter, Capt. John Segar; Pioneer; St. Anthony Falls; 
Tiger, Capt. Hancock. Total trips below Mankato, about 50; above Man- 
kato, about 100. 

1871. Hudson ; Mankato, Capt. James Houghton ; Otter, Capt. Bon- 
coeur Subilier ; Pioneer. Total trips below Mankato, about 20 ; above 
Mankato, about 50. 

1872. Osceola, one trip. 

1873. Osceola, two trips. 

1874. Osceola, Capt. Haycock, one trip. 
1876. Ida Fulton ; Wyman X. 

1886. Alvira, one trip. 

1897. Henrietta, Capt. E. W. Durant, one trip. 

In a single list, as follows, these steamboats of the Minne- 
sota river are arranged alphabetically, with information, so far as 
found, of their place and date of building, and their hull ton- 
nage. Where further details are at hand, "sd." and ''St." note 
respectively side-wheel and stern-wheel boats, and the figures in 
parentheses give the size of the boats in feet. 

Addie Johnson 220 

Albany Ottawa, Minn. 1860 42 



Annie Johnson *. 171 

Antelope 1850 37 

Anthony Wayne, sd 1848 

Ariel 1861 67 

Belfast 1858 156 

Ben Campbell, st. (29 by 182) Shoustown, Pa. 1852 287 

Ben Campbell [year 1868] 143 

Benjamin Franklin, No. I Brownsville, Pa. 1847 181 


Black Hawk, st. (21 by 130) Rock Island, 111. 1852 130 

Buckeve 5 

Chippewa Falls 1865 91 


City Belle, sd Murraysville 1854 216 

Clara Hines, sd 1861 80 

Clarion, st Monongahela, Pa. 1851 72 

Clipper Belle Vernon, Pa. 1855 68 

Cutter .'.... 1867 92 

Damsel 200 

Delaware 168 

Dexter 102 

Ellen Hardy, st !86; 77 

Enterprise [year 1852] 

Enterprise 1865 8a 

Eolian Brownsville, Pa. 1858 106 

Equator, st Beaver, Pa. 1855 105 

Excelsior Brownsville, Pa. 1849 172 


Fanny Harris Brownsville, Pa. 1855 160 

Favorite, sd 1859 1 15 

Fire Canoe Lawrence 1854 166 


Flora, st. , 1860 159 

Frank Steele, sd 1857 136 

Freighter Zanesville, O. 1855 93 

G. B. Knapp 61 

G. H. Gray, st (19 by 139) St. Croix River. 1863 50 

G. H. Weeks 160 

G. H. Wilson 1862 100 

General Sheridan, sd 1865 35 

Globe 1854 

Greek Slave, sd 1852 

H. S. Allen 

H. T. Yeatman, st Freedem, Pa. 1852 165 

Henderson (barge) 

Henrietta, st. ( i/o feet long) 

Hudson , 1865 125 

Humboldt ^ 1853 

Ida Fulton 220 

lola, st. 1853 

Isaac Shelby 1857 100 

J. B. Gordon, No. 2 

J. Bissell 

Jeannette Roberts, st 1857 112 

Jennie Baldwin, st 193 

Jenny Lind Zanesville, O. 1851 107 

Julia, st. (28 by 141) Pittsburg, Pa. 1865 158 

Lady Pike 210 

Lansing v 1865 84 

Little Dorrit . 


Little Mac (barge, 25 by 142) 1 14 

Mankato (about 150 feet long) 1864 113 

Medora 1857 101 

Minneopa (barge, 12 by 75) 

Minnesota Elizabethtown 1849 142 

Minnesota Belle (170 feet long) Belle Vernon, Pa. 1854 226 

Mollie Mohler, sd. (22 by 125) Carver, Minn. 1864 94 

Monitor 1864 15 

Montello 1853 

New Ulm Belle 

Nominee Shoustown, Pa. 1848 213 

Ocean Wave 1857 60 


Otter 1865 30 

Pearl Cincinnati. 1851 184 

Pearl [year 1866] 51 

Pioneer 75 

Planet (barge) 


Red Wing ; 1857 150 

Reveille, st 1855 

St. Anthony Falls, sd 1866 40 

St. Cloud 

Shenandoah 1853 

Stella Whipple 1863 74 

Tiber Marietta, O. 1851 184 

Tiber [years 1866-67] 7% 

Tiger, sd, Sauk County, Wis. 1849 84 

Tiger 1865 17 

Time and Tide, sd Freedom, Pa. 1853 131 

Turtle, sd. (14 by 100) Henderson, Minn. 1864 

Uncle Toby 1845 

Victor (barge) 

Viola 36 

War Eagle Fulton, 111. 1849 296 

Wave Elizabethtown 1848 89 

West Newton (150 feet long) 1852 300 

Wyman X., st. (22 by 120) Taylor's Falls, Minn. 1868 92 

Yankee 1849 

The first boats on this river for each year, and the dates of 
fhe"ir departure from the St. Paul wharf (or, for a considerable 
number, as indicated, of their arrivals at St. Peter and Mankato), 
are noted in the following table. 

Anthony Wayne. June 28, 1850. 
Excelsior, June 29, 1851. 


Tiger, April 21, 1852. 

Greek Slave, April 4, 1853. 

Greek Slave, March 21, 1854. 

Globe, April 8, 1855. 

Reveille, April 10, 1856. 

Equator, April 12, 1857. 

Jeannette Roberts, March 20, 1858. 

Freighter, March 25, 1859. 

Time and Tide, March 19, 1860. 

Albany, March 30, 1861. 

Albany (arrival at St. Peter), April 3, 1862. 

Jeannette Roberts (arrival at Mankato), April 3, 1863. 

Jeannette Roberts (arrival at Mankato), April 16, 1864. , 

Ariel, April 2, 1865 (arriving April 4 at Mankato). 

Chippewa Falls (arrival at Mankato), April 15, 1866. 

Chippewa Falls (arrival at Mankato), April 18, 1867. 

Chippewa Falls March 29, 1868 (arriving March 31 at Mankato), 

Ellen Hardy (arrival at Mankato), April 18, 1869. 

Otter (arrival at Mankato from New Ulm), April 5, 1870; Mankato 

(arrival from St. Paul), April 13, 1870. 
Otter (arrival at Mankato from New Ulm), April 4, 1871; Pioneer 

(arrival from St. Paul), April 15, 1871. 
Osceola, May 15, 1872. 
Osceola, April 12, 1873. 
Osceola, April 25, 1874. 
Ida Fulton and Wyman X., April 18, 1876. 
Alvira, 1886. 
Henrietta, April 23, 1897. 






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